A Student’s Guide to the OBX

A Student’s Guide to the OBX

It is nearly impossible to write about just one single day or experience that I’ve had in the last three months living here in the Outer Banks. Since my arrival in Manteo, there have been many moments with my peers that I have committed to my memory, so I’ve decided to write about the ones that stand out the most to me. Here is a guide to memorable things you can do as a student in the outer banks field site!

A view of the sound at Pea Island Wildlife refuge. Salt marshes are one of my favorite ecosystems!

Go to the beach!

The first thing we did as a group was going to the beach after class on FDOC. We swam, sat on blankets and played cards, until the sun started going down. Jennette’s Pier is my favorite beach spot, where the sunset gives some of the most beautiful light on the pier pilings and shines through the waves. You can play Kadima, cards, or read and listen to music on warm summer evenings with the waves crashing in the background, surrounded by your friends.

Jennette’s Pier during golden hour!
Nathalie and Steve playing Kadima on the beach. It was a privilege to watch such athleticism!

Pick up bugs!

One of my favorite things to do during the break in between classes is to find all the cool bugs that reside around CSI!

We have a plethora of mantises, cicadas, locusts, and cool spiders! As long as you are careful and gentle, they won’t hurt you, and they make for such cute little friends! My personal favorite were the praying mantises, as they will walk across your hands and up your arms, or rest on your head!

Praying mantis hitching a ride on Kenan’s hat!
Mackenzie holding a praying mantis on campus!

Go stargazing and catch ghost crabs!

One of the most amazing things about the Outer Banks is the night sky. At Coquina beach, about 15 miles south of Jennette’s, you get some pretty dark night skies with the milky way visible! I loved putting down blankets and laying on our backs watching for shooting stars as they fly by. If you’re lucky, you will see thousands of ghost crabs covering the shoreline, and if your friends are really cool, they will teach you how to catch them!

Rebekah managed to catch two ghost crabs unassisted!

Have fun on field trips!

Take advantage of the interesting and unique field trips the field site will offer! We got to explore the entirety of Hatteras Island by going to different museums, checking out wildlife, and eating yummy food! We also got to conduct research down in Buxton, which was a really cool experience. Exploring Duck and Corolla was my favorite field trip. We got an in-depth tour of the town and went to museums and the Currituck lighthouse!  Afterward we kayaked through the marshes, watched wild horses from the back of a truck, and ate some really good pizza.

Steve and Joseph taking a nice relaxing paddle in Corolla.
Jason, Blakely, Steve, Nathalie, Cathy, Jane, and Rebekah all suited up to traverse our maritime forest, Buxton Woods!

Do something fun for fall break!

Most of us ended up camping at Jane’s farm in Maryland for fall break, a lovely retreat from the hustle and bustle of school and beach. We were able to go to D.C and visit lots of museums and eat delicious food! We had lovely fireside chats every night, and had fun with archery, crabbing, petting farm animals, and various other ventures.

Jane taking us for a joy ride in the Gator!
Anna holding a blue crab that we caught in a crab pot on the Potomac River!

Participate in spooky season!

We went to Island Farm and picked out our pumpkins for carving! We carved our pumpkins all together on the porch and it was really fun to see everyone’s creativity take form through their jack o’ lanterns! Wanchese woods –a haunted trail in the forest of East Lake– was another fun and spooky activity! We went in small groups, where Steve and Joseph showed us their vulnerable sides as they screamed throughout the horrifying maze. We watched several scary movies in the month of October, and finished on a high note by watching The Shining in our costumes on halloween night.

Blakely, Anna, and Nathalie with their prized pumpkins at Island Farm!
Joseph posing for a snap with his new friend, nightmare jester!

Visit Ocracoke!

This past Friday, we had a field trip to Ocracoke Island! We piled into the van at 7 am and headed down to Hatteras to board the ferry. It turned out there was a nasty Nor’easter in town, and the ferries for the weekend were all cancelled, so getting there was the easy part but the prospect of getting back out that evening was unknown. We decided that Eduardo’s, a delicious Mexican food truck, was worth the risk of getting stranded on an island for the weekend. Despite some gnarly waves and gale-force winds, we saw dolphins swimming and jumping  out of the water directly in front of us at the bow of the ferry, making it all worth the while.

A very poor photograph of a bottlenose dolphin swimming in front of the ferry to Ocracoke!
Rebekah soaking up the sun and letting the wind flow through her hair on the ferry!

Make new friends!

The people are by far the best part of living in the Outer Banks for the semester. I had some doubts about moving to a new place to live with a bunch of strangers, but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every single person here has something special to offer, and each has their own set of unique qualities that are well worth getting to know. As soon as I got here, I was sad that I would have to leave at some point, but I am going to cherish this place and the people I am fortunate enough to call my friends until I have to go.

Kenan, Anna, Nathalie, and Rebekah climbing a large live oak tree in Corolla!
Jane wrangled a locust in the tall grasses of CSI!
Jane and Anna shaping up Steve’s luxurious locks!

shenanigans

My favorite part of the Outer Banks Field Site is the people. At the guest house, there is always something to do and always someone to do it with. Any event can be turned into a fun experience. For example, one Tuesday night, I was upstairs along with some of my best-est friends, watching a movie. Some of my other classmates were downstairs, cooking dinner. Then our relaxing evening was suddenly interrupted by a blaring alarm. Everyone in the house was just confused. There was no smell of smoke in the air and there were no flames to be seen. Those of us watching a movie wandered down the stairs to see if something had happened in the kitchen. All we found were people just as confused as we were. Our RA, Rachel, told us to go wait outside until we could figure out if there was truly any danger. So onto the porch, we migrated. One of my classmates, Steve, sat on the porch, still cooking his instant noodles.

Steve and his noodles

Another resident of the house came running out, wrapped in a towel and another towel in her hair. As you can imagine, she was thrilled. There was no sense of panic at all, just annoyance and confusion. Right at this moment, our classmate Kenan pulls into the midst of all this chaos. Confused, he joins the group in waiting for something to happen. Eventually, the firemen arrived. One had arrived before the engines and had gone into the house to detect smoke. Before he entered the house, he asked us to go stand far away, so we went and stood in the dark corner of the parking lot. When he exited the house, back up had arrived. Two fire engines and a whole fleet of police cars blocked off the intersection. He told them that he did detect smoke, so the firemen began to suit up. All of us just stood in the parking lot in disbelief. Steve ate his noodles. Another classmate and resident, Mackenzie and Caid, continued to eat their meal. Another resident sat down and took a nap. The rest of us looked on, waiting to see the house engulfed in flames. Thankfully that never happened; to pass the time we began to play Among Us. Eventually, the firemen arrived at the same conclusion we had: there was no emergency. Come to find out, the fire alarm was triggered by meatballs. As inconvenient as this situation was, cracking jokes and playing games made it seem like another regular night. 

Another example was our fall break. For our fall break, we decided to drive up to Washington D.C.

Blakely and Nathalie taking a picture of me on our way to D.C.

One of our classmates, Jane, and her family were nice enough to host us on their farm in Maryland. It was truly beautiful; we got to feed horses, ride around in a gator, and camp out. One of the days, a smaller group of us decided to head into the city. We drove to the train station and rode the metro in. There we spent the whole day exploring D.C. with its many museums and sites. After an amazing Italian dinner, we decided to explore the city at night. Nathalie, Joseph, and I rented scooters while Steve and Blakely took a relaxing stroll towards the Washington Monument. The city had become quiet in the night. The monuments were illuminated and the moon was shining bright; it was truly beautiful. It was a perfect night and the reflecting pool proved to be the perfect place to ride scooters. Since it was a long straight line, you could push the scooter to its max without having to be worried about being hit by a car. We weaved in and out of people, racing from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a blast and a night that I will remember. 

 

The Washington Monument

More recently, it was Halloween. Of course, we carved pumpkins. It was so fun to sit around, listen to Halloween music, and see what people decided to carve. Some went the creative route while others were more traditional. One of my favorites was my classmate Rebekah’s pumpkin. She took an out-of-this-world approach, making her pumpkin extraterrestrial.

Rebekah’s Pumpkin

Another one of my favorites was Jason’s. His pumpkin was so wholesome, embodying the spirit of fall. Joseph’s pumpkin deserves an honorable mention since this was his first time carving a Jack O’ Lantern. It was hard to believe that he had never carved a pumpkin before, but he took to it quickly. Halloween night a group of us watched the Shining. It was Blakely’s (who was Monica from Friends) and my (who was Rachel from Friends) first time watching the Shining, but Fran (who was a chef), Nathalie (who was Steve), and Kenan (who was Cheech) were there to enjoy our gasps of surprise and shock. After the movie, we talked about our favorite parts and other scary movies we love.

Joseph and his pumpkin

I guess the point I am trying to make with all these anecdotes is that it is the people that make these experiences so memorable. I have experienced a fire drill before, but not while wearing flame socks with Steve eating noodles. I have been to D.C. before, but never with friends and never having ridden a scooter around the capital’s monuments. And for Halloween, I have carved a pumpkin before, but only ever with my family. Each person here has changed my life, and that includes my professors, the people I have met at my internship, and all the random people I have met at the guest house. If you decide to experience the field site, the friends you make will change your life for the better. 

(left to right) Kenan, Steve, Nathalie, Fran, Jane, Blakely, Joseph in D.C.

TGIF at the OBXFS


My favorite memories at the field site so far are the opportunities we have to explore the Outer Banks during field trips, facilitated by our directors Lindsay Dubbs and Linda D’Anna. Some work weeks end with a “field Friday,” when we’re collecting data for our Capstone. Other Fridays are dedicated to ecology lab work. Additionally our professors aim to apply concepts that we learn in both our ecology and management classes to our surroundings, through carefully organized group outings that often occur on Fridays.

A Friday in the Forest
One of the first “field Fridays” that we experienced as a cohort was a day of sampling in Buxton Woods. This field day consisted of collecting missing data from plots sampled the previous week as well as sampling a brand new plot, making our survey three plots total. We began this Friday with a breakfast from Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe. I recommend trying a cinnamon roll or one of their famous apple uglies. The sampling was tedious and tiring, the incentive we needed to preserve was our pastries waiting for us in the van.
On other field days we’ve visited prominent members in the communities of Cape Hatteras and Buxton Woods. Some of my cohorts conducted their interviews on Fridays to assist in the completion of the sociological side of our Capstone Research. Through these “field Fridays” I learned a great deal about my personal capabilities.  Botany was never on my radar of potential hobbies before coming to the OBXFS, but nowadays I eagerly identify the same species from Buxton in other places. 

Our Frigid Friday on the Sound
The next adventure I wanted to highlight is our water lab. In this lab we aimed to hypothesize a relationship between water temp, PSI, DO, turbidity, and levels of Chlorophyll a. Originally we planned to take a boat on the sound and do our sampling aboard, but the weather was uncooperative. We opted to visit a few sites still, traveling by van instead. The first site was significantly easier than the rest because we took data from the familiar bulkhead at CSI. Oregon inlet was the second site that we sampled. Here we ran into a little hiccup, the pier we intended to conduct our sampling on was closed. Instead of packing up and pulling out of the parking lot, we adapted our plan to sample from the beach. You can see Jane on your right standing in the water with our YSI, taking parameter readings from 
a surface depth. Steve to the left is recording our lab activities on a GoPro for an OBXFS promotional video. I am a tall girl so I had the opportunity to take the YSI data at our max depth recorded in Oregon Inlet. It was empowering to face the turbulent sea in the name of science. From there we conducted our final sampling under the Baum Bridge and finally saw some emergent blue skies. Here we experimented with what I believe is called a Veredian Tube, a.k.a another state-of-the-art piece of equipment we borrowed from CSI. In the photo to the left Joseph is releasing the water captured in the coring device before we headed back to CSI. An interesting part about being at a field site is my exposure to so many unique research tools. I have a much greater appreciation and understanding for the papers I read for class after seeing some research methodology firsthand. Recognizing tools and techniques used by the published researchers is super encouraging. 

Full Friday of Fulfilling Activities.
Last Friday at the field site was dedicated to our ghost crab ecology lab. This Friday started off with a bright and early sunrise at Jennette’s Pier. We wanted to ensure the least disruption by tourists and beach drivers. We counted Ghost Crab holes in the sand and collected our findings on a data sheet with a specific numeric system to describe what we saw. The data we collect in this lab will contribute to a larger study on Ghost Crab population numbers conducted by colleagues of Lindsay’s who do research at CSI. When we were in the sand digging around for sand fleas and tossing hula hoops for science, I couldn’t help but feel like a little kid again. While at the beach we tested out a sand coring and sifting method to catch the sand fleas. This process is demonstrated by my classmates Keenan and Blakely in the photo on the right. To top off a terrific morning, we had a communing breakfast at Stack ‘em High. By the way, I was thoroughly impressed by their breakfast burrito.
After filling myself to the brim on hash browns, another classmate named Anna and I headed back to the pier to volunteer for one of our CAB members, Christin Brown. Christin is the director of education at the pier and invited us to fish with a group of students with exceptional needs from First Flight and Manteo Middle and High Schools. We had a blast and made so many new friends! After a few hours of fishing we made our way back to CSI and finished our plant identification process from our aforementioned vegetation sampling. The evening came to a close with a frightful trip to the Haunted Wanchese Woods.

OBXFS 21: My Favorite Experience

While there have been many unique experiences during this semester so far, I would definitely say that our long adventure day in Corolla was my favorite experience. This trip started like many others, a talkative van ride where we wondered what escapades we would encounter together. 

We started at the beautiful Audobon sanctuary, where we were shown around the property and introduced to the planned bird conservation projects. We then traveled to the wildlife center, where we learned the history of Duck and Corolla and the towns’ cultural origins through the museum and a movie.  

After we climbed a random tree waiting for our lunch to arrive, we climbed something you are supposed to, a lighthouse. A few of us ascended into the Currituck Lighthouse,

where we could see miles in every direction of the beautiful landscape that we would soon explore further. We could even see the long dock where we would later launch our kayaks into the water. 

During our kayak tour, I had the best kayak partner, Rebekah, who had just turned 22 the day before. While we undoubtedly would have beaten anybody in a race, we decided it was best if we just enjoyed the scenery and did not embarrass any challengers. Thankfully I didn’t get too dirty considering all the milfoil and wild celery we encountered; however, not all of us (Steve and Joseph) were that lucky.

My favorite part of the day was the bumpy and windy ride across the beach in the back of the wild horse tour truck. The best times of the field site are when everyone is together and able to talk about our unique and exciting experiences. This was actually the first time I encountered the wild horses, and I was surprised by how many we saw grazing in people’s front yards. We were able to get quite close to the horses, and Joseph came feet away from a charging stallion. While the details are fuzzy, let’s just say that that horse was lucky it decided to swerve away. 

 

After another spirited ride back, we quickly ate down our Corolla pizza, which I would say is better than most other towns’ pizza, except for Nags Head which still stays #1 for me. We were blessed by two dogs who smelled our delicious food and came over to greet us. We thanked them for their presence with a few of our crusts and attempted to teach them tricks.

I don’t remember much about the ride back, considering I fell asleep from the busy day we all just had; however, I’m sure the rest of the field group cheeringly looked back on the perfect day we just experienced. 

Cut the Cameras: It’s Almost Over?!

As an avid vlogger (although I have been slacking with the updates since my computer broke) I have the amazing ability to have a time capsule of the past. As the semester is starting to wrap up, I am getting very nostalgic about this experience looking at the pictures and videos I recorded! It is truly wild that we only have 2 more weeks until the semester is over.

Recently we have been very busy here at the field site. I am currently writing this as I take a break from studying for my last of 3 finals, and moving forward we will be extensively working on the capstone! It hasn’t really hit me that classes are over and that we are almost done with our capstone. 

A lot of the past blog posts have already talked about the amazing parts of the field site: the people, the classes, having an engaging internship, and more. For this post I am going to talk about the things that brought me happiness that were unexpected!

Seeing a shipwreck:

One of my peers, Heidi, is an avid morning person. One day she asked if I wanted to watch the sunrise and also see a shipwreck, and I enthusiastically agreed! We saw a shipwreck, and I was amazed at the whole aesthetic! I find shipwrecks to be really fascinating, as each boat has a story.

Picture of the Shipwreck. Also was a beautiful Sunrise!

Getting a bike and bike rides:
Photographic rendering of Betty, my beloved bike.

One of the things that has brought me the most joy from this field site has been my bike! Betty, the name of my bike, has been a part of many memories and is the way I get around since I do not have a car. I have enjoyed riding on the bike path, biking a few times to the Coastal Studies Institute for class (which I do not recommend in the summer months because you get really sweaty), and just taking in the landscape on wheels. Manteo is pretty flat, which is convenient since Betty only has one gear. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I love to listen to music and bike. You definitely feel like the main character in a coming of age movie!

Gaining more experience in the lab:

 

A selfie of me in the lab. The lighting in this space hits different!

I have always been intimidated by labs and doing any sort of lab work. When I heard we had to do lab work for our capstone and classes, I was very nervous and dreaded it. However, I am pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I got with lab work! Measurements derived from lab work reveal a lot of interesting patterns, and using the fancy equipment was a great experience. I honestly started to really enjoy being in the lab!

Skydiving:

When I learned there was a skydiving company in Manteo, I knew that I had to skydive before I left the Outer Banks. Thankfully, I was able to skydive in October! It was an incredible experience that brought me so much happiness. The worst part is the anticipation on the plane going up, but the freedom and awe during the actual skydiving part was unmatched. The video I got from my experience is also hilarious, and is a memory I will always fondly look back on.

At Skydive OBX with my sister!

These are just a few of the many unexpected things from this Field Site that have sparked joy. I am really sad I am leaving soon, but grateful for all the memories that have come from this experience!

-Janis Arrojado (class of 2022)

 

From Distress to De-stress: My Newfound Hobby

My legs bounce incessantly as I grip the paddle so tight my knuckles turn stark white. My throat is dry and my heart is racing. “Why am I doing this?” is an incessant thought as I attempt to move my arms. Each wave that approaches and every slight yaw of the kayak fills me with dread and inaction. It occurs to me how embarrassing this is, but I can’t seem to move the paddle. Bri gently reminds me that I need to help her paddle because while she is skilled, kayaking for two is difficult, and we are heading for land far too rapidly.

Weather station located on the Croatan Sound, North Carolina. August 2020.

It’s too late. The waves force us into the grass at the edge of the Sound. Bri gets out to push us back into the water and suddenly disappears with a splash up to her waist. The struggle culminates in Professor Andy Keeler paddling over to us on his paddleboard, jumping into the water, and pulling our kayak free. Thankfully, the waves are too strong to warrant going any further and we return to the dock.

As that story implies, I don’t know how to swim; water is my kryptonite. Yet, I am studying in the Outer Banks, a place surrounded by water. The water terrifies me, but it also draws me. And, what better way to tackle my fears than by immersing myself in a semester designed to conquer them? After the catastrophe of causing Bri and myself to become landbound for several minutes, I promised to never kayak doubles again. If I capsized or got into a tricky situation, I could get myself out.

OBXFS students kayaking on the Alligator River, North Carolina. October 2020.

The next time we kayaked, it was once again in the Sound, my fickle friend. The day was much calmer and the water only slightly undulated, perfect for the water tour our professors had planned. I set out on my own kayak and paddled with vehemence, determined to keep up with everyone in spite of my fears. The entire time, I kept pace with the group, arms stinging with pain, but I did not fall behind, capsize, or hit land. I sat in my kayak riveted by Andy’s stories of each location. A buoy marks the spot where Andy Griffith had a rowdy night and I made sure to remember the story for my parents. As I sat in my kayak, bobbing in the water, the stories distracted me from my fears.

By the time we returned to the dock, my arms were slacking from the tension that had glued them to the paddle. The pain was worth it though. I faced my fear and kayaked the Sound on my own. Yes, I had all of the professors and my classmates nearby if I needed help, but I did it myself. A not so simple feat for someone scared of the water.

Kayaking on the Alligator River, North Carolina. October 2020.

October 2, 2020: I wake up early and drive to Buffalo City. We are kayaking Alligator River. I am less nervous today and excited to get on the water. The sunlight filtering through the trees casts a shimmer over the river and fills me with a sense of calm. When I arrive, the guide says that there will have to be two doubles. Despite my fear of potentially causing one of my classmates to capsize, I kayak with Heidi. We crush it. Instead of focusing on all of the things that can go wrong, I focus on the abundance of nature and plants we have learned about in ecology. I spy Spanish moss and trees with knob roots. When we’re in the wide expanse of the river, I focus on improving my kayaking skills and eventually learn how to paddle to a stop and backward. This tour blew me away. The history of Buffalo City is fascinating– I won’t spoil it for anyone thinking about studying at the Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS)– and the location is gorgeous.

OBXFS is truly a perfect place to grow, not only in terms of gaining field experience and figuring out what you want to do or not do in life but also in pushing yourself to conquer your fears. This semester, I have focused on expanding my comfort zone. I hope that any student reading this post and considering studying at OBXFS takes advantage of this opportunity and applies. There is a whole semester of growth and adventure waiting for you.

– Meagan Gates, UNC-Chapel Hill, Class of 2022

An OBXFS Internship: A Love for Writing and Science

I had just arrived in Manteo, with my family, one day before I was to move into the guest house with the other students. I went onto the balcony of the hotel to take a call, as my younger brother complained about the quality of the Wi-Fi in our room. He, of course, did not see a need to stop while I answered the phone. 

Cory was calling to talk to me about my internship placement, he told me I would be working with Parker Kellam and John McCord in CSI’s Public Outreach and Education Department. He explained that I would be writing content for the CSI website about current research while also providing insight into the field site. I remember telling him that the placement sounded perfect and that I was excited to start. My mom, who is always more excited than me about everything, was eagerly waiting to hear what I was going to be doing. I believe my exact words to her were, “science writing.” Of course I went on to give her more detail and basically repeat what Cory had told me, but I realized I still had no idea what I was about to embark on.  

Nonetheless, I was excited that I would be writing. I have always loved to write, in fact for a very short time in middle school I had convinced myself I was going to make a living writing fictional novels. I’ll admit, I still daydream about locking myself in a cabin somewhere in the woods to create the next best-selling fiction series, but my passion for the environment always wins out. Which is why the prospect of combining my love for writing and science into one thing brought a smile to my face even before I really knew what was going on. 

Lauren and Heidi Working
Heidi and I coordinated on many projects over the semester. Having her around added to the quality of every article I wrote.

During our first two weeks at the field site Lindsay managed to set up work spaces at CSI, for those who wanted them. I can’t remember if it was by chance, or on purpose, but I ended up being assigned to the same room as the Outreach and Education Department’s other intern, Heidi. On our first day, as Parker and John explained their expectations and suggested projects for us to begin, I had no idea how much Heidi and I would end up working together. 

The first piece I produced for CSI’s website was an article about the first two weeks at the field site. I really enjoyed working on it, as it gave me the chance to get to know my peers. While working on this story I learned more about Meagan, another student that worked in the same room as Heidi and I. She too would become a centerpiece of the memories I created while working at this internship.

Lauren Colonair at Internship
I spent a lot of time at CSI, in my workspace, writing stories for the website.

Still, I was ready to write about research at CSI. John suggested I talk to three different researchers, including Dr. Kimberly Rogers. As I worked on the article about Dr. Roger’s research on sediment and resilience in Bangladesh, I found my love for science deepening and discovered a new hunger to learn about new fields of science I hadn’t previously contemplated. This hunger intensified as I moved onto my second piece, which focused on research being performed by Dr. Jim Morley on oyster leases. 

This second project is when Heidi and I really got to know each other. John and Dr. Morley’s PhD. student, Andrew McMains, were kind enough to set up a day for me and Heidi to join Andrew as he carried out field work for the research. This, however, required us to drive three hours to Morehead City, spend the day on a boat, and drive three hours back to Manteo. It was the absolute best day of the entire internship.

Field work with Andrew
Andrew showed us how to tag fish with acoustic trackers during our time in the field.

I am not saying Heidi, Meagan, and I did not enjoy our internship days at CSI, but this day was special. Heidi and I woke up very early, at least in my mind. I had learned Heidi wakes up before the sun on a regular basis, and she was more than happy to be starting our drive to meet Andrew. We talked for the entire three hours there and almost the entire three hours back. The work we did with Andrew not only gave me interesting content to write about, but it also revealed that I do really enjoy field work of all types. Something I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t afforded the experience. 

In short, once the day was over I found myself with new knowledge to carry with me into my future academic and career oriented endeavors, but more importantly I gained a friend I intend to keep around. 

Still shot from Student Interview
One of our fellow students, Todd Davis, was kind enough to allow us to interview him for our YouTube videos.

I continued to write articles about the field site and assist Parker with social media content for CSI. I am in the process of finishing up my last research article, and to be completely honest, I wish it wasn’t so close to being over. Luckily, Heidi and I decided to work together to create two YouTube Videos for CSI’s page. We still have a lot to do, so I don’t have to think about the end just yet. 

The internship was, overall, an integral part of my experience at the field site. It allowed me to do something I love while learning about my field of study, broader scientific topics, and what I want in the future. Through the guidance of Parker and John I feel I have become a better writer and have learned how to present information to the public in a more streamlined manner. I was even lucky enough to work with people I really enjoyed and gain life long friends through the experience. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, but I will miss working at CSI with John, Parker, Heidi, and Meagan.

Lauren Colonair, Class of 2021 

Making the Best of It

This week, Lindsay made a comment that filled me with more emotions than any one phrase has in quite some time; “We are more than halfway through the semester.” I sat there, at the metal picnic table I’ve sat at all semester, and stared at her. Thankfully, my mask hid my astonished expression. 

The first rush of emotion was fear. There were many terrifying thoughts swirling through my mind. How were we, a group of ten students, going to finish collecting all our data for our capstone, analyze it, write a whole report on it, and finish our classes in less than two months. At that moment, it seemed close to impossible. 

Following the fear was sadness. I scanned the outdoor space we call our classroom, taking in all the faces around me, faces that, despite our masks, have become familiar. Each of the nine other people I have shared this experience with has made their own unique mark on my life. We will be leaving to walk down our own individual paths, yet again, in such a short amount of time. Although I know we all have exciting and bright futures waiting for us, as I heard Lindsay’s words, I realized I was not ready to let go of the present experience.

One of the best parts of living here is the countless opportunities to walk along the beach.

The last emotion I felt was a huge rush of excitement. The thought of all the crazy and cool stuff we will have the opportunity to do in the next few weeks brought a smile to my face. I feel as if there is an astronomical chance we will not find any significant scientific conclusions through the work we have done, but we get to try. That in itself is enough for me, we get to finally start putting together something to show everyone how hard we have worked this semester. And we have worked hard, every single one of the people here has put in extra time and effort they didn’t necessarily need to at some point or another.

All of this brought me to one singular goal for the remainder of my time here. Since August, I have had awesome experiences and have gotten a lot out of being here. However, for these last two months I want to make a conscious effort to make the best of my time here. The days following Lindsay’s terrifying, but true, statement brought many opportunities to do just that. 

Heidi and I spent a day near Cedar Island, as part of our internships, assisting a PhD. student with some field work.

This past Wednesday was an internship day. I have been interning with the Public Engagement and Outreach Department at CSI as a science journalism intern, all semester. I’ve enjoyed my time in this role immensely, however I was exhausted when I woke up and not exactly excited to go into work. (This is a dangerous thing to say because my mentor may very well read this) However, as I begrudgingly climbed into my car to make the eight minute trek from the guest house to CSI, I remembered what internship days met; I was spending the day with Heidi and Meagan.

We are all efficient and focused workers, but we find time to have fun too. My favorite conversations have been over our lunch as we discuss the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, conspiracy theories, comical YouTube videos, and so much more. I walked into CSI that day knowing I would have more of those conversations and I was going to create even more great memories connected to CSI and OBXFS. 

On Thursday, I was still very tired. (I am not exactly sure why I had absolutely no energy this week, but it is a common theme that has thankfully come to an end this weekend.) Class started that day at 9:30 AM. I woke up at 9:25 AM to Bri, whom I drive to CSI everyday, pounding on my door yelling for me to wake up. In quite the panic I got ready in seven minutes and drove us to class as fast as I safely could. 

During that drive, I have never been happier that Bri is the chaotic sweetheart that she is. All the way to class she bombarded me with jokes about our current situation. During class, I took in the beautiful sound side views that have been the backdrop of our academic work. I let myself reflect on how lucky our little group is to be here at this exact moment. We, unlike many people in school right now, get to study in person, interact with our classmates and professors, and do real work. No number of days that start off rocky could ever overshadow the gift we have been given by getting to be here. 

Collecting water samples, for our capstone, in the rain is actually kind of fun.

On the way home I found myself feeling even luckier to have the people I have to share this time with. There are people who may have reacted with anger towards my inability to be on time that morning. Bri found a way to make the best of the situation. She filled the morning with humor and was entirely relaxed the whole time. Like every other student here, she was selfless and I was reminded that I wouldn’t want to be here with any other group of people. 

Friday brought with it another field trip day filled with excitement and interesting lessons about the Outer Banks. We learned about the economic and community shaping dynamics of bridges and other infrastructure, the ecology of the northern side of the Outer Banks, and how coastal management decisions affect the future. We stopped at the Hatteras Lighthouse and discussed the decision to move it, along with the implications of that undertaking. At the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station we learned about the history of the area and how it has informed the current lifestyles now present.

This field trip gave me the opportunity to observe on how important our instructors are to the experience of this place. Lindsay, Linda, and Andy have demonstrated a desire for every student to learn and enjoy the semester that is more obvious than any other professor I have interacted with in the past. During lunch on Friday, Andy sat with Natalie, Heidi, and I and talked about our lives, experiences at UNC, and peppered in academic and life advice wherever he could. It was clear through the entire conversation that he really cared. I noticed, throughout the day, that Lindsay was always ready with water, snacks, and general questions aimed at making sure everyone was ready to move forward and having a good time. I’m sure part of this is her mothering instincts, but I know we all feel cared for and comfortable when she is around. Linda spent the day providing humor at just the right times, she always ensures the group’s spirits remain high. 

Andy gave a short talk about the economic impacts of infrastructure, like bridges, in front of the Herbert C. Bonner bridge. This bridge sits over Oregon Inlet and is the only way to get into Hatteras by car.

I spent the weekend working on assignments and tasks for the upcoming week all while finding time to enjoy the people around me. I found myself on a six hour Netflix binge with Todd and Janis on Saturday night. We shared countless jokes, great conversations, and created new memories that will definitely remain some of my favorites when I look back on this time.

Our tour guide at the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station told us many amazing stories about the beginnings of life-saving on the Outer Banks.

In short, all of us who have experienced OBXFS this semester could not be more fortunate to be here. We don’t have much time left, but we have so many more opportunities to make the best of this place. We all have each other’s backs, maybe more than any other field site in the past due to the circumstances we find ourselves currently in. Everyone works hard, and even though we have a lot more to accomplish, I know we can do it and do it well.   

I was not sure where I wanted to take this post when I sat down to write it, but now that I’ve reached the end, I’ve realized I simply wanted to convey that OBXFS is a great place to be. This past week has allowed me to come to that realization more conclusively. I wanted to give a glimpse into life here to encourage anyone who may find themselves on this page and consider coming to this program to do so. My semester here happened to fall during a pandemic and as a result it would be a lie to say we got the full experience of this place, still, I have never found myself in an academic or social environment quite like this one. 

In conclusion, thank you to my amazing classmates who have now become my amazing friends, and thank you to our incredible instructors for not only teaching us new things and caring about us as they do, but for dealing with our antics in general. I can’t wait to finish this experience with all of you.  

While we have kayaked in many places now, the Buffalo City paddle in Alligator River was one of the most unique areas.

Early Rising

Good morning! It’s 5 am, my favorite time of day. I can do anything I want in the morning – right now I’m writing this blog post (I’ll probably post it later though). At sunrise, I’m going to head over to the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) to take some photos of plants for the Coastal Landscape Initiative, but right now I’ll let you know what we’ve been up to.

My early mornings are usually spent alone, but these past two weeks I’ve had the rare opportunity of spending time with people before 10 am (which is like my late afternoon). I’ll start with Friday, Sept. 18th; the plan was to get SOAKED. It was a storm sampling day for our capstone research, and we had to get data on rain’s effect on water quality. Emma, Caroline, and I headed out at 9 am for our second day of fieldwork. We had so much fun bailing water out of the wells. Of course, not everything was perfect – the rain stopped for us and we didn’t even get to get wet. But, we still got our storm-day data! Afterwards, we brought our samples back to CSI to be prepared for coliform and E. coli readings, which I got to do with Bri and Lauren the next day!

Sampling Supply Box. Always be prepared.

Vista Colony Well after Storm Water Sampling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week, on Wednesday Sept. 23rd, Lauren and I started our days at around 4 in the morning. We had a three-hour drive to Morehead City to shadow a grad student’s research. For our internships, Lauren was writing an article on the project (which you can check out at CSI’s website) and I got to take photos. We had a blast on that trip from our conversations, to fish tagging, to wild horses. I’m not going to talk too much about it here because Lauren’s article isn’t out yet, but here are some sneak-peak photos.

Lauren releasing a sheepshead fish after tagging.

Wild horse near Cedar Island, NC.

And finally, this Friday, Sept. 26th, our whole class got to wake up early to meet in the town of Duck at 8:30 am. Duck is about an hour from where we’re staying. We met with CAB member Matt Price who talked a little about shoreline protection/living shorelines in Duck as well as the septic system they use. Then we drove to Corolla for kayaking/stand-up paddle boarding, a meeting with Hadley Twiddy about ecotourism, and a meeting with the wonderful Sharon Meade about wildlife and hunting history on Corolla. My favorite part of that day was an eastern box turtle we saw along the side of the road.

Eastern Box Turtle
Eastern Box Turtle

Anyways, I know this blog post is a bit rambling. My point is the best days are the ones I start early. I have so many more stories from shipwrecks to shark eggs! I’d encourage you to watch the sunrise at least once a week – I’m going to go watch it now. Thanks for hanging out with me for a while, Heidi signing off. Carpe diem.

Bailey’s internship with Manteo’s Town Planner!

This semester I got to see what a town planner does! My mentor was Melissa Dickerson, a super woman who keeps Manteo running.

My first week with Melissa was right after Hurricane Dorian. I went with her to a county meeting with FEMA. I had no idea how coastal towns received aid money after natural disasters so this was a super eye-opening first day to say the least. The downtown boardwalk area had some damage so I tagged along while Melissa showed FEMA workers the areas that needed repair.

During my time here, I helped out with the Plan Update Working Group, a group made up of community members whose primary goal is to review and update the Town’s 20 year plan. More specifically, I helped out with the Working Group’s Wayfinding Sub-committee. Before this semester, I didn’t realize how important wayfinding is to towns. I helped out by making powerpoints and transcribing meeting minutes. One of the first powerpoints I helped make was a presentation on the signage posted along the three bridges that connect to Manteo. These pictures are good examples of what the sub-committee is reviewing.

I got to meet a lot of the people working in Town Hall and was even able to sit through a couple Board of Commissioners meetings. It was an amazing experience to see first-hand how local government is run. I’m so thankful for the people in Town Hall that always took the time to explain things to me and introduce me to other people. I can’t make this post without saying how great a mentor Melissa was! She always gave me work that exposed me to new things and was so much fun to work with.  The opportunities given to me this semester have exceeded even my highest expectations and I’m so glad I got to be apart of this program.